I had completely forgotten I started this blog...I merely stumbled upon it by Googling myself (or is it "googling," with a lower case g?). At the time, I seem to recall thinking that Qoheleth was a pretty bitchin' name for a blog. After all, "Qoheleth" is the name of the narrator of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. And Ecclesiastes is possibly my favorite book of the Bible, if I had to choose one. I think it appeals to the skeptical side of my nature.
I mean, how many Biblical books start out this way?
1 The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher.
“Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
3 What does a man gain for all his efforts
that he labors at under the sun?
4 A generation goes and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets;
panting, it returns to its place
where it rises.
6 Gusting to the south,
turning to the north,
turning, turning, goes the wind,
and the wind returns in its cycles.
7 All the streams flow to the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
The streams are flowing to the place,
and they flow there again.
8 All things[b] are wearisome;
man is unable to speak.
The eye is not satisfied by seeing
or the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9)
You just gotta love that. Dark stuff, not at all the "warm fuzzies" a lot of people associate with the Bible. Then again, there's an awful lot of stuff in the Bible that doesn't make it into the average Sunday School lesson. Look at Chapter 23 of Ezekiel some time...it'll curl your hair. ("Their breasts were fondled there, and their virgin nipples caressed." Get the picture?)
That's part of why the contemporary Christian slogan about BIBLE standing for "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth" absolutely rubs me the wrong way. The Bible is NOT a handy little instruction booklet. I'm reminded of a great moment in The Simpsons Movie, when Homer frantically skims through a pew Bible and says, "This book doesn't have any answers!!!" Indeed.
If that's my view on the Bible, then why do I keep coming back to it, over and over? I think part of it is realizing, as Qoheleth did, that everything I think is a new problem is anything but. All the things I deal with, good and bad, other people have dealt with thousands of years ago. That connection to human history, religious or otherwise, is very important to me. One of the things that is most distressing to me, as I continue to work in the church, is that so many modern Christians have not the slightest interest in church history. They act as if Christianity were simply one more self-help program, and the Bible just a handy little user's manual for their lives. "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." Seriously? That's it? Just read the magic, and everything will be cool? Nope, I don't think so.
The Bible isn't just a bunch of cutesy Sunday School stories: Noah's Ark, David and Goliath, the Beatitudes. Hell, even those stories aren't just cutesy Sunday School stories, even though the vast majority of Christians seem to treat them that way. No, the Bible is far more complex than that. Poetry, myth, legend, history, prose, parable, metaphor, apocalypse, genealogies--it's all that, and more. We do it a grave disservice if we read it in the same way as the owner's manual for our DVD player. May we always remember that...
Can one say about anything,
“Look, this is new”?
It has already existed in the ages before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:10, HCSB)